Unimaginably Wonderful:
A Cold, Wet Spring in Berlin.

March 28, 2023

7/13 4:27:18 UTC

If you didn’t live through it, you may not appreciate the darkness and fear that pervaded our lives— especially in Germany— during the Cold War. Imagine going through life with the looming threat of the impending destruction of a bitterly divided world. 

Ok, maybe it’s not that hard to imagine, because many feel that way now. 

And that’s exactly why we responded so positively to the invitation to a meditation on Berlin. For us, Berlin stands for our ability to find a way through our most seemingly insurmountable challenges to unimaginably wonderful outcomes. A city of division & distrust, became a place of peace, unity, and revitalization.

That spirit of renewal also made Spring the perfect time to go there — especially with our buddies Ivan Dzhatiev and Louis Hollinson, who recently shot our All Eventualities Kit there. Louis was one of our earliest partners, and you can read our interview with him here

Given the symbolism of Berlin, we thought we’d catch up with Ivan, Creative Director at TECHUNTER, to talk a little more about what it’s like for him to be on the frontlines of geopolitical conflict today.

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But first and on a lighter note, Ivan, tell us how you hooked up with Louis and Irem for this trip?

Louis and I met in a hotel hallway back in 2020 during a memorable trip to Chamonix. Funnily enough, out of everyone on that trip we spoke the least with each other. After the ordeal, we started casually DMing on IG, and over the course of 3 years I’d say we ended up having the most honest and thoughtful conversations about the industry, work and life I’ve had with anyone on the platform. 

There was a thought of linking up someday for a joint venture: I love what Louis does with his work and his taste for me is unparalleled, and I guess some of my work struck a chord with him as well.

It seemed pretty gnarly to get to Berlin from Tbilisi. Why was it so hard?

I was born in Russia. It was not ever easy to travel before the war, but ever since the start of this invasion (and before that in 2014), each time it became harder. It’s not like this is something to pity me for, I am incredibly grateful for still working and having these opportunities to travel at all, but being exiled from my own country and then having police pressuring and interrogating me during every time I try to cross borders anywhere is not something I can just get used to. This time was no exception, but again, I went with the flow.

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How was the trip?

Berlin is a very special place for me. It is the only city in the world I ever thought of as home outside of the place I was born. I had an incredible childhood, where I got to travel with my mom around Europe a lot, but all of those cities always had sort of a predetermined “look” to them. Berlin is the only city for me that is painted with your own brushes, if you will. 

Last year I was here at the exact same time for about a week. The night of the 23 to 24th of February I met with my uncle at his place in Kreuzberg. I guess that did imprint Berlin as the last “normal” time of my life. On the 24th I was on a plane to Moscow to join my friends in protesting. Coming back a year later was very special, and meeting all my friends, family and colleagues reignited my sense of normality, maybe for just a moment, but that was incredibly meaningful. 

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Ok, now that you’re back home in Tbilisi let’s talk about that. TECHUNTER is such a globally influential publication, I don’t think that many people realize it’s based out of Tbilisi. Do you feel like that has shaped your work?

I and the whole team appreciate these words. TECHUNTER was founded in 2015 in Moscow, Russia. Our project never really aimed to be associated with any particular place in the world, yet we were proud to have developed such high quality print publication and a media platform from outside of the industry, in a way, with the global reach and influence we gained. Since the start of the war, in the 1st days of March the core team that was based in Moscow moved to Tbilisi, Georgia, for both moral and political reasons. 

Tbilisi became a new HQ for us, even though nowadays most of our team is based around the globe. We have people working on the project full time from Italy, UK, USA and our network of authors and contributors is truly global and vast. 

The interest, passion and the drive to learn that was born from the lack of access to the products, retailers and cultural movements that we had when we started is, in my opinion, something that propelled the project to become what it is today. This drive is still here and I think is only getting stronger with each year we are going.

Georgia is a new chapter, a truly inspiring one. The country as a whole, its people and vast natural beauty is still a hidden gem for most westerners, and I hope there is a way that through our visual and overall work we can tell about it to a lot more people, so that they can get inspired by Georgia as much as we are today.

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How has it felt for you to be there since the war in Ukraine?

The choice between jail and a forceful conscription, or packing your life into a couple medium sized luggages and spending literally everything in my bank account to buy a awfully overpriced plane ticket, leaving everything behind for me was quite obvious. I won’t say I was ready for it 100%, but here we are, a year later, still going. For some time I felt like my life did end, everything I’ve built up, aspired to, learned and planned. I came here in early March. It was an anomaly in terms of weather: it snowed every day, while it usually doesn't at all. It took me some time to adjust, but a lot of walking in the mountains, which are 10 minutes in a car in any direction here, helped me a lot, as well as people around me and finding even the smallest tasks to do. I didn’t really have time to be depressed. 

I don’t think I am a victim here, maybe collateral, but I don’t feel a need for pity. I am a third generation dissident at this point, as my grandfather and father before me. Protesting for so many years and actively trying to change the direction that a small group of people decided to take a whole country in, I felt like we could prevent all of this. Feeling like we lost is truly painful, and that this cycle still continues for so many generations.

Tbilisi became one of the centers of this immigration. I’ve met so many incredible people here from all walks of life: activists, politicians, journalists, creatives, etc. I had opportunities to help people, to volunteer, to continue working and developing my own craft here – this city forever is in my heart.

I think there is a lot I’ve learned here. People’s view on life, freedom, tradition and your place in the world. I don’t want to say everything was butterflies and sunshine all the way through, this year being the hardest challenge I’ve ever faced in my life, I still find the lessons I’ve learned throughout this year and in Georgia specifically to affect all of my life going forward.

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We’ve been so immersed in the labor protests in France, I don’t think many people realize what’s been going on in Georgia. Are you worried about press freedoms eroding there?

Knowing Georgian people and their fury against injustice I am not worried. Yes, the government and the people are very much against one another here in many ways, but I am very hopeful for the future generations and their own path they are on. Knowing from experience where such policies lead, I am certain that this path does not include having rights of the people be subject to these oppressive laws. 

I would imagine you guys receive more than 20% of your funding from outside of Georgia, would the foreign agent law have affected your work?

Absolutely. Even though it was first aimed at mass media, news outlets and NGO’s, I am sure if this initiative would pass everyone would be in danger. That how it started in my own country. This law is locally known as a “Ruzzian law”.

There is still a lot to be done about it and its authors, but the streets here do speak their truth, as we have seen here many times over.

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We’ve been so incredibly inspired by your work at TECHUNTER, what drives you to do it?

I am obsessed with telling stories, I love clothing as a subject of research and I adore people. I feel like there is a personal mission in all of this. It might sound cheeky to read, but I think voices and viewing angles such as mine and ours at TECHUNTER are needed in the industry of today: we showcase in full detail, dissect, dig deep and uncover meaning, insights and thoughts, that are usually considered TLDRs for other contemporaries. 

Take for example my business card – Macroshots editorial style that I came up with during lockdown, being stuck in my apartment with no subject to photograph. It was weird at first, maybe unpopular, but the idea of showcasing all of the intricacies of a technical piece through very detailed and up close photos can help a user to decide on a weighted and thought through purchase. You see the quality, you understand why the price might be higher for that piece and if you truly need it or not. And that mindset I try to pursue throughout all of my and our work at TECHUNTER.

There is a need to be insightful and there is a reader, a viewer and a subscriber for it. I mean, there is one for anything these days, and that is the beauty of it – if you are truly interested in something, there is more than a 100% chance that you are not alone. You might be just starting out or you have doubts on your already long journey, but I assure you that you are doing what is absolutely right, if you are doing it because you are passionate about it.

Photography/editing: @re.configured
Styling/ad: @l.holl 
Model: @irrremerdem